Baltimore is in a place of healing, at this stage, from the unrest incurred after the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained while in police custody. There are lots of resources being heaped on the city, in an effort to engage the community and alleviate the feelings of despair. Saturday, August 15, 2015, this writer had occasion to sit with and interview a very gifted person whose own life tribulations compelled her to practice the principle of reciprocity-a giving back to the community. This article is the result of that interview.
Her name is Stephanie Edwards, but those in her circle know her as Safiyatou (Sah-fee-ah-too), a West African name from the Woloff language in Senegal. She has been a hairdresser, working in a salon for more than 20 years. She is very artistic and has natural abilities and talents, especially in the hair design industry. She loves hair and tapping into her own creativity. But that is not enough for her.
Safiyatou experienced the death of a friend and was so impacted that she became “like a zombie”. She said her friend, Kris Moore, was an amazing person, a big inspiration and a conduit for many others. As a result of her need to heal, redirect and take herself to a new level, Safiyatou organized the Baltimore Girls.
The Baltimore Girls is a group of ten women across age lines who do not mind being open and transparent in order to help each other and others to heal. Safiyatou saw a need as she had to re-think her own life, being a single mother, then a young grandmother and winding up with kidney failure and ultimately, having to endure dialysis. She said people see the outer shell and think everything is all right, but that is not always the case. She wanted to meet people, sisters, who had risen above and jumped over the hurdles and were willing to tell their stories, without placing a band-aid on the problem or situation.
She began to look at her clients in a different manner. Many of them were going through some trials and just needed to talk and stop acting like everything was together. She started with a core group of 5 women who were willing to be transparent and truthful as they discussed what they had endured during the week. Sometimes, the activities for the women seemed basic, such as getting hair and makeup done, then being photographed by professionals. Another activity had the women dressed in African attire and going out to Robert E. Lee Park to commune with nature. Yet another activity was involving the women in Artscape, the nation’s largest free arts festival, held in Baltimore each July. (Safiyatou will host a viewing party of their events from Artscape for all of the women to see.)
Safiyatou likes to challenge the women to do what they would not ordinarily do, that is, stepping out of their comfort zones and helping someone else. She says each woman is individually gifted and powerful and has something to offer.
Baltimore Girls meets each Monday night in Safiyatou’s home from 6-8 pm. Safiyatou is in the planning phases of a celebration as the group comes upon its one year anniversary in October.
Stephanie Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or her website. Baltimore Girls can be found on Facebook.